published Monday, July 9th, 2012

Rangers battling blazes in Cherokee National Forest

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About 100 rangers with the U.S. Forest Service continued to fight against extreme heat and dry conditions today as they struggled against a forest fire in Cherokee National Forest.

The fire – thought to be the largest wildfire in the Southeast right now — will consume about 1,600 acres before rangers believe they will be able to bring it under control.

"We haven't seen any real rain up here since Riverbend," said Andy Gaston, acting district ranger of the Ocoee Ranger Station of the Cherokee National Forest.

"The woods are pretty piled up with dead wood from the the southern wood pine beetle invasion in 2006. That will burn with a lot of intensity, he said.

Forest service firefighters were using helicopters to dip water from Parksville Lake to dump on flames in one region of the burning forest.

In another area that were using drip torches to light a backfire line along a ridge of Chilhowee Mountain.

Gaston said the fire is only one of about seven burning in the Cherokee National Forest right now, but it is the largest.

Called the powerline fire, the blaze began Thursday night when high winds toppled power poles and sparks ignited the dry woods, Gaston said.

about Pam Sohn...

Pam Sohn has been reporting or editing Chattanooga news for 25 years. A Walden’s Ridge native, she began her journalism career with a 10-year stint at the Anniston (Ala.) Star. She came to the Chattanooga Times Free Press in 1999 after working at the Chattanooga Times for 14 years. She has been a city editor, Sunday editor, wire editor, projects team leader and assistant lifestyle editor. As a reporter, she also has covered the police, ...

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